The latest figures from PwC/IAB's Digital Adspend study have revealed that spending on mobile display ads has overtaken PC and tablet display ads for the first time ever, following consumer trends that have seen consumers, in particular women and 18-24 year olds, shift their browsing habits to smartphones.
H1 2016 saw UK spending on smartphone display ads hit £802m, compared to £762m on PC and tablet ads, with overall spending on digital ads up 16.4 per cent year-on-year to £4.78bn, the highest growth rate for the first half of the year in two years.
Total mobile ad spend, including search and classifieds, increased by 56.1 per cent year-on-year, with 36 per cent of all digital advertising spend now going to mobile, up from four per cent just five years ago, amounting to £1.72bn for the first half of 2016.
The shift in ad spend is driven by browsing habits, with UK adults now spending 46 per cent of their internet time on smartphones, compared to 41 per cent on a desktop or laptop, according to a UKOM study from June. That figure rises to 52 per cent among women and 61 per cent among 18-24 year olds.
"Mobile use today is more akin to a computer than merely a phone, as people increasingly rely on them as their information, entertainment and communications hub," said Tim Elkington, chief strategy officer of the IAB UK.
"People now spend more time online on their mobile than they do on a computer. Consequently, marketers devote more ad spend to mobile as they increasingly cotton on to the fact that people essentially carry an ad platform with them wherever they are."
Video saw the largest growth of all formats over the period, with spending up 67 per cent across all digital, and 129 per cent on mobile alone, thanks to rising video, TV and film viewing on smartphones. Video now accounts for 30 per cent of all display advertising, and 37 per cent of all mobile display.
With the rise of ad-blocking, advertisers are increasingly avoiding pre-, post- and mid-roll video ads. While these formats grew 17 per cent, outstream and in-read video ads saw a massive 440 per cent increase in spending, now accounting for 40 per cent of all video spending.
Total digital ad spend on social media sites was up 43 per cent to £745m, with mobile up 64 per cent and now accounting for 80 per cent of all spending on social. Content and native ad spend was up 29 per cent across digital channels, and 37 per cent on mobile.
Finally, paid-for search grew 18 per cent to £2.49bn, a 52 per cent share of total digital ad spending across all formats. Most of this growth came from mobile search, which rose 61 per cent year-on-year.
"The phenomenal rise of mobile search reinforces the idea of mobile as the ever-present ad medium," said Dan Bunyan, senior manager at PwC. "It means advertisers no longer have to wait to target people at specific 'touchpoints' during the day.
"Instead they can deliver highly relevant, localised ads with unprecedented immediacy, such as reacting to people reach a specific place, looking for a particular product or even the weather changing."